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House ethics report: Rep. Bishop used campaign funds for personal use

The report says the Columbus congressman spent $100,000 or more on golf-club memberships, Christmas parties and more

WASHINGTON D.C., DC —        

A congressional report says U.S. Rep. Sanford Bishop may have  misused more than $100,000 in campaign funds and public money.

The report says Bishop, a Columbus Democrat, may have broken federal laws and U.S House rules.

The Office of Congressional Ethics said Bishop admitted using campaign committee funds for personal expenses.

It describes thousands spent on golf-club memberships and fees, golf outings with friends and even school tuition for his granddaughter.

Bishop also used money from his congressional allowance to pay for an annual Christmas party, the report says.

The report also cited poor record-keeping by Bishop. For example, the congressman billed his campaign for more than $10,000 in gas and other vehicle expenses for him and his wife. But Bishop and his staff never kept mileage records, so they could not determine how much travel was personal and how much was campaign-related.

By email, Bishop’s staff admitted his campaign had made “mistakes.” They said he had replaced his campaign treasurer and repaid many of the improper expenses.

The ethics report said Bishop blamed many of the problems on his previous longtime treasurer. He said she had suffered health problems in recent years, including memory loss.

According to the report, when Bishop learned last year about the chaotic state of his campaign funds, his current treasurer said, “He was clueless, and he was floored.”

Politico reported Friday that the ethics office recommended earlier this year that the House Ethics Committee launch a full-scale investigation into Bishop’s spending.

Bishop was first elected to Congress in 1992. He’s seeking a 15th term in Congress and faces a challenger in November, Republican Don Cole.
He represents the 2nd Congressional District, which includes Crawford, Macon, Peach, Dooly and Taylor counties and most of Bibb County

Bishop's office released this statement Friday afternoon

Congressman Bishop is dedicated to honoring the principles and values of his office. Before the Office of Congressional Ethics (OCE) notified him of its review, he was made aware of mistakes made by his campaign and had already taken immediate action to bring it into compliance. Congressman Bishop has fully cooperated with the OCE’s review and proactively reimbursed many of the charges OCE identified as incorrect. He will continue to work with the Ethics Committee openly and transparently, and is prepared to take any further, necessary corrective action.

Congressman Bishop has changed campaign treasurers, retained the services of an experienced compliance consultant to prepare and file the campaign’s reports, and engaged the law firm Perkins Coie to conduct a thorough review of his campaign’s finances. The Congressman recognizes that these mistakes should never have happened to begin with. Going forth, he intends to provide better oversight to ensure errors like this never happen again. Serving the people of Georgia’s 2nd Congressional District is an honor, a privilege, and a responsibility Congressman Bishop is deeply committed to upholding as he works to bring this matter to a close.

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